Archive of European Projects

Opposing force: How to combat on going drain of young adults in rural areas
Start date: 01 Sep 2014, End date: 31 Aug 2016 PROJECT  FINISHED 

The aim of the project “ Opposing Force: How to combat the on-going drain of young adults in rural areas” was a joint development of tools for lifelong learning. Our project was based on the research that emerged amongst youth in Söderhamn, Sweden, carried out by Ms.Lotta Svensson, PhD in Sociology at the University of Uppsala and at R&D Söderhamn. Background: In the transition between school and working life all young people are facing difficult decision making about their own future. For many of the young people in the rural areas there is an additional component to ponder, namely the question if they should stay where they are or move. These kinds of decisions play an important roll for the individual, but also for the the regions where these young people were raised, but later in many cases move away from. The migration of young people from more or less all small municipalities to big cities is a major concern. Civic leaders fear population decline and worry that shrinking demographics and smaller tax bases may impact local welfare. Business people are concerned over a potential shortage of competent workers. In addition, what happens to the expectations and hopes of the future in an area that young people are moving away from? The norm – which says that young people who wish to gather symbolic capital and be perceived as modern and youthful, ought to move to urban areas is highly general. In addition, it seems that the feeling of not being wanted or needed in the municipality of origin is widespread among the ones who have no desire to leave or relocate, which are the ones with parents without a higher level education. The preconceived notion that “young people with ambitions want to move” often leads the adults to the conclusion that young people are not interested in working with local development. This leads to that young working class people living in the rural areas face contradicting messages; on the one hand they must and wants to shoulder the future of the region, and on the other they are stigmatised and viewed as passive because it is their wish to do so. The norm and internal logic, which state that those young people who “count for something” are going to want to move, result in the attitude that there is no point in trying to engage young people in local development work. In this way, the municipal civil servants and politicians contribute to an increased individualisation and stigmatisation, which is mainly expressed in working class youth having an insufficient belief in the fact that those with regional power and influence really want them to stay in the region. If young people who stay in the local community do not “count”, they will not perceive themselves as interested in influencing society. In order for resources that are contained in social relationships to become assets to the individual or to the group, the individual must be aware of his or her resources. Even if the need for renewal is acknowledged in our municipalities, the prevailing values reduce the value of young people who show interest in and wish to stay in the region, and they are not seen as renewers of social capital. Young people who express an interest in “taking over” and shouldering the responsibility from previous generations are not seen at all, or are regarded with distrust by many of the surrounding adults, because they are considered to be passive and disengaged. In this way, these young individuals will not experience, or become aware of, the possibility that they could have something to contribute to regional development. Instead, their lack of self- confidence is confirmed, and they continue to see themselves as poor in resources and lacking in influence. Objectives were to: • Improve the access to lifelong learning for young adults: to provide high quality AE by learning centres and facilitate an academic career by the use od distance education. • Encourage and support the young adults to take over already existing small enterprises. • Develop the the use of social media and the opportunity for young adults in rural areas to inspire each other and to increase their influence on local democracy. The partnership included partner organisations from Ireland, Sweden, Romania, Iceland and Finland and consisted of both AE providers and rural action associations with close links to popular education movements. Adult education/training was developed for groups of young adults in each partner country related to the topics and the results are published in an "Opposing force manual" aimed to inspire learning centres and AE providers in rural areas to participate in the combat against the on going drain of young adults in rural areas.
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